Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 159

On August 9 Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev met Jordan’s King Abdallah II in Astana, confirming his intention to expand ties between the two countries. In addition to Jordan, Kazakhstan is also pursuing closer bilateral relations with Egypt as part of an overture to the Middle East. The main areas of cooperation are economic, cultural, and humanitarian, but Astana also hopes they will extend to fostering political dialogue and security cooperation. “Kazakhstan confirms its intention to develop in every possible way and in various spheres of bilateral relations with Jordan,” Nazarbayev said. “We are interested in deepening the political dialogue and coordinating efforts on the international arena. Trade and economic, cultural, and humanitarian aspects of our cooperation are of great significance.”

Jordanian ministers and businessmen arrived in Kazakhstan in advance, negotiating a number of trade agreements. Jordan expressed interest in buying 300,000 tons of wheat from Kazakhstan. Direct flights between the countries will be established, with embassies being opened later this year, facilitating deeper economic and cultural ties (Kazakh TV First Channel, August 8). While emphasis was placed on economics, security topics were also on Nazarbayev’s agenda.

Both sides agreed to expand their anti-terrorist cooperation: “We intend to develop our relations in the field of fighting terrorism, extremism, and international crime. Jordan, which is located in such a complex region in the world as the Middle East, has broad experience in this respect,” observed Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan’s security structures are increasingly interested in tapping this experience in order to strengthen domestic security capabilities. Astana’s security relations with Jordan reflect this approach. The two countries will step up intelligence cooperation, specifically relating to terrorism, but also sharing information about international criminal networks and religious extremism (Interfax-Kazakhstan, August 9). As Nazarbayev told the media, “Cooperation between the security services of our countries will make a great contribution to the fight against terrorism and extremism.”

At a political level, Nazarbayev is pleased that Jordan has joined the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA), which Nazarbayev sees as a key cooperative strategy for regional development. Nazarbayev described Jordan’s decision to join CICA as “an important result of political partnership.” He sees advantages in Jordan’s membership, as it is an influential country in the Arab and Muslim worlds (Itar-Tass, August 9).

The political statements from the meeting were unusual, as Kazakhstan rarely comments on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But both Kazakhstan and Jordan issued a statement calling for “a fair settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the implementation of relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.” Nazarbayev and King Abdallah II called for preserving Iraq’s territorial integrity through the “consolidation of its political forces.” Nazarbayev has strongly supported, at considerable risk, the U.S. intervention in Iraq and has maintained Kazakhstan’s public support through its ongoing deployment of elements of its peacekeeping battalion (KAZBAT). But he has also done this for his own reasons, gaining in the course of this deployment an opportunity to showcase KAZBAT, winning significant support from the United States and NATO to help Kazakhstan expand the battalion into a brigade; holding out the prospect of greater involvement in future peace support operations.

However, he chose his wording carefully at the joint press conference, referencing the UN rather than any individual country and referring to the present coalition forces deployed in Iraq as playing a key role in future efforts to bring large-scale aid to Iraq.

Abdallah II reported that he and Nazarbayev had discussed “challenges to stability and threats in the modern world.” He asserted: “The only way to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the creation of a stable and viable Palestinian state.” For his part, Nazarbayev is unlikely to say anything about the political situation in the Middle East that would cause concern in Washington, and indeed his comments were calibrated to allay fears that Kazakhstan blindly follows what critics describe as a U.S. unilateral approach to intervention. In everything Nazarbayev says concerning these issues, he is mindful of Moscow, seeking to avoid any hint that he follows Washington’s lead on foreign policy issues (Itar-Tass, August 9) The two leaders also discussed each country’s need to emphasize the principles of Islam and the need to confront the activities and ideologies of militants. But despite arriving at consensus, they failed to agree on any specific joint initiatives to these ends (Petra JNA, August 9).

Nazarbayev has developed a range of new ties with countries in the Middle East. Although some of these links remain at an early stage, he envisages opening up the National Security Committee to greater international intelligence cooperation. Jordan and Kazakhstan will share intelligence on terrorists, extremists, and international criminal activity of interest to either side, yet Astana has a special interest in unlocking the experience of security agencies in the Middle East in combating and monitoring terrorists.